Mill Creek Greenhouses opened in the spring of 2006 after owner Lori Watson got the inspiration to open her greenhouse to bring plants she said she felt like Columbia lacked compared to other cities.
“I didn’t feel like Columbia had that little plant destination,” Watson said.
Watson’s goal is to sell unique items other places lack, she said. Mill Creek grows annuals, herbs and perennials. It sells shrubs, trees, planters, soil amendments, fertilizers, pine straw, pine bark, garden decor and garden accents.
In the last several years, Mill Creek has also started focusing on its selection of natives. Watson said people travel from other cities to the greenhouse for its selection of natives.
“It’s so neat to be a plant destination, finally, after 15 years,” Watson said.
Mill Creek Greenhouses is decorated with brightly colored murals of flowers painted by staff members. According to Watson, since the pandemic, more people have come to experience it.
“It is a beautiful place to walk around,” Watson said.
Watson said the staff tries its best to keep people positive, and they "want to see people succeed."
“We never want anyone to fail,” Watson said. “We really try to help people.”
Mill Creek Greenhouses is among other plant nurseries offering a natural environment that can bring you a new house plant, hobby or even friend.
Ben Salley, a Columbia native and owner of Simply Citrus Nursery, sells a wide variety of different plants and specializes in citrus trees. Salley has been working with citrus since 2000, and a few years ago, he got the chance to turn his hobby into a full-time job.
“I like citrus. I’ve always had, sort of, a passion for growing,” Salley said.
Among the most popular items he sells, including Meyer lemons and mandarins, is the homemade marmalade made by his wife. Before the coronavirus, they had a tasting area at Soda City.
Salley said he wants his customers to effectively grow their own trees and is willing to share all of his knowledge.
“I'm all in on trying to make sure that people are successful,” Salley said.
Newcomers to citrus growing tend to know the basics of citrus, such as the smell and taste, and Salley said he helps them learn how to deal with things such as the local climate and watering.
“The most challenging part is just convincing people that you can grow them [in Columbia],” Salley said.
The Riverbanks Botanical Garden is home to over 70 acres of gardens for visitors to see and "4,200 species of native and exotic plants," according to its website.
“Going to a public garden is a great way to get ideas for your own personal yard,” director of horticulture Andy Cabe said.
Riverbanks has eight different gardens, with themes such as Asian plants or antique roses.
“In the botanical garden, the plants are designed to be the forefront, where at the zoo, the animals are at the forefront and the gardens at the zoo help create the backdrop,” Cabe said.
According to Cabe, the Walled Garden is the most popular.
“It has a lot of plant diversity in there. A lot of unusual plants; plants that people may not recognize,” Cabe said. “It’s a way to showcase a bunch of new and interesting plants."
Cabe said the different gardens are a teaching tool for all ages. The Bog Garden, which contains carnivorous plants, is a good way to teach kids about the ecosystem, in addition to youth programs hosted by the Riverbanks garden education department, he said.
“When you walk into a botanical garden, it can seem overwhelming with all these plants, but we also have a dedicated staff that takes care of it,” Cabe said.